In law school, we were taught how to write legal memoranda, client letters, and advocacy briefs. Those skills are vital as part of law practice. But practicing law is also a business, and building a business requires marketing skills. Marketing calls for a different kind of writing with a different purpose. As an attorney, you know you have what it takes to handle a client’s legal matter, but how do you attract that client to your door? Sure, there’s word of mouth, face-to-face networking, even speaking engagements at community meetings. But here’s another proactive approach to attracting clients—use your writing skills as part of your marketing strategy and establish yourself as an expert in your field.
1—Add a blog to your firm’s website
Blogs are a good way to communicate relevant changes in the law, pending legislation, even news topics that position you as a knowledgeable professional whose goal is to educate and inform and not simply land that next retainer. Blogs can help build trust and eventually convert your readers to clients because they’ve already become familiar with you via your blog. A well-written blog can attract new clients or retain current ones by staying in touch. But beware! Blogs are expected to remain fresh, so posting a new article weekly is the minimum frequency for which you should aim. Shoot for 500 words or less, as most folks spend little to no time reading extensive articles. Get to the point quickly or give the reader a reason to keep reading by providing relevant advice or information, even a call to action. If writing for your blog on a weekly basis seems more like a burden than a fun exercise, rethink the blog idea. Or recruit fellow practitioners or others in the legal field who can act as guest bloggers. Even consider outsourcing the task to a skilled freelancer who would be more than willing to keep your blog fresh by ghost-writing articles for you. Blogs can become stale quickly and will disappoint frequent visitors. Once that happens, readers start falling off, and your blog may never recover.
2—Offer white papers as free downloads
White papers allow you to cover nuances in the law, changes that might affect your clients’ cases, major case law, or the fundamentals of mounting a defense in a certain type of case. These allow you to be more prolific than the typical blog post. You can promote white papers on social media as free downloads, linking people to your firm’s website. Once on your website, the visitor can be required to enter contact information in exchange for the free download. Not only are you building a list of potential clientele, you are building your reputation as an expert on a certain topic or field of law.
3—Publish an electronic newsletter
Electronic newsletters can be e-mailed on a regular basis to clients and potential clients, maybe weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Using services like Constant Contact can help you present your newsletter in a professional manner. Items to include could be news about your firm and its employees (which helps create a personal connection); short summaries of relevant case law written in a conversational tone with no legalese; or your professional thoughts on current events such as police brutality cases or a major argument before the U.S. Supreme Court. By establishing a regularly scheduled e-newsletter with helpful tips and news items, you can attract new clients, retain clients, and even increase referrals. Get your staff involved to take the onus off you for creating fresh content. Have each person submit a news item or case summary for each issue of the newsletter, and designate someone to collect the items and edit them before publishing them. Or find a freelancer who can maintain the schedule and create a more seamless process.
4—Publish an article in a trade and/or association publication
Do you belong to a specialty bar association that offers its members opportunities to contribute to a member journal, magazine, website, or blog? If you haven’t considered this before, try pitching an article idea to the person in charge of your association’s publications. This would allow you to showcase your knowledge before your colleagues as well as any public entities, and you’ll have the chance to get involved in your association’s activities. A word of caution: If you are the type of writer who cringes at the thought of someone changing your article or suggesting changes, you’ll need to reconcile those feelings beforehand or choose not to seek this route. It is almost certain that something will change during the editing process or you will be required to make changes before your article is accepted, or both. Many of these changes can improve the article as a whole, so be open to any suggestions the association publisher might have; he or she would have a better sense of what the overall audience is looking for. Typically, there are specific guidelines for articles, such as word counts, citation style, writing style, peer review, specific deadlines, and even ownership. There may even be an editorial calendar, so try to be flexible with your writing and your time.
5—Publish a book or eBook
Writing a book is by far the most time-consuming of all the ways to market your business or career, but it might be the most rewarding. Writing a book on the subject of your practice also adds “published author” to your résumé. Many attorneys with whom I’ve worked see authoring a book as a great marketing tool, with a significant yet intangible return on investment, so they aren’t always focused on whether they will break even or make a profit. Becoming a published author could help catapult your firm to the next level. Books tend to open new avenues for generating income either by attracting new clients or providing you with a level of notoriety that could lead to speaking engagements, book signings, town hall meetings, maybe even a run for political office. Those attorneys are willing to invest a significant portion of their time and money to ensure the success of their final product. They recognize the importance of hiring publishing professionals like me to prepare the manuscript, ensure its quality, and develop a marketing campaign that targets their core audiences. Although printing a book can be costly, going the eBook route saves on printing and shipping costs—even though the amount of work that goes into producing the manuscript stays the same. Selling the eBook on Amazon, B&N, iBooks, etc., opens you to a vast audience and potential income.
As attorneys, you perform myriad writing tasks to advance your clients’ cases. Now it’s time for you to advance your practices using those same skills, only in a different way. One can never have enough clients. So the more you write for a public audience, the greater the potential for growing your client base.
There are lots of great articles that confirm the need for content marketing for attorneys and how this aspect is growing. Read this recent Huffington Post article for more information on the topic.